Posted on August 23, 2011 @ 2:04 PM in
This is OutdoorNI.com’s August Bank Holiday blog for 2011 but don’t worry we’ve got a brand new blog with details of loads of exciting events happening over the August Bank Holiday Weekend 2012 - click here to go to the new blog August Bank Holiday Adventures 2012
Mark the last weekend of the summer with a great day out in Northern Ireland’s outdoors. Our events section is full of activity ideas taking place over the August Bank Holiday Weekend but here are some of our top tips.
Kids & Family
Strangford Sea Safari – Strangford Sea Safari, Strangford Co Down
Skim across the surface of Strangford Lough aboard an exhilarating purpose built Rigid Inflatable Boat. Experience the treasured seals, castles and whirlpools.
Coasteering for Families – The Adventure Team, Ballintoy, Co Antrim
Water, waves, rocks, gullies and cliffs. Don a wetsuit, take to the rocky coast and jump. This activity is an exhilarating mix of body surfing, rock scrambling and cliff jumping.
Mountain Biking for all the family – Far & Wild, Downhill, Co Londonderry
Enjoy a scenic ride through Binevenagh, Downhill Forest and Beach under the watchful eye of a qualified instructor. Bike hire included.
Family Adventure Day – Clearsky Adventure Centre, Downpatrick, Co Down
Have a fun day out, enjoying canoeing, archery and orienteering. Watch dad get red in the face, have a laugh at mum, encourage the little ones and capture the memories!
Fun with Friends
Super Sunday – The Summer Finale – Todds Leap, Ballygawley, Co Tyrone
Body Zorbing, Drop Zone, Zip Line, Hill Rally Stage and Rodeo Bull are just some of the activities on offer to mark the end of the summer.
Do Kayaking – LIFE, Castlewellan, Co Down
Enjoy an excellent introduction to sea kayaking whilst exploring Northern Ireland’s beautiful waterways.
Belfast City Bike Tour – Belfast City Bike Tours, Belfast
Enjoy a tour of Belfast City on a funky California Cruiser bicycle. The easy paced guided tours will show you over 30 points of interest, some of which are only reachable by bike.
Swing N Roll – The Jungle NI, Moneymore, Co Londonderry
Release your inner Tarzan or Jane whilst you swing through the trees suspended 60ft above the forest floor! If that’s not enough excitement take a spin downhill in an inflatable zorbing ball.
Posted on August 23, 2011 @ 12:45 PM in
OutdoorNI.com does Strangford Sea Safari is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘OutdoorNI.com does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.
Find out how OutdoorNI.com’s Claire Overend got on when she took a blast on the Strangford Sea Safari.
Like a child on Christmas morning I woke up early on the morning of my first ever sea safari, my excitement grew even further as I opened the curtains to glorious sunshine.
The drive to Strangford from Belfast only took about 40 minutes. Strangford Village has an idyllic location, right on the edge of Strangford Lough, it really has the traditional feel of a quaint Irish village.
We arrived slightly early so just chilled out in the sun watching the car ferry move back and forward between Strangford and Portaferry. After a short wait a fast looking RIB (which stands for Rigid Inflatable Boat) approached the pier and unloaded all the passengers from the previous trip. I was getting excited! My boyfriend who isn’t too keen on water seemed a bit nervous!
Our guide, Andrew gave us large waterproof jackets to wear even though we where already wearing jackets, I thought I wouldn’t need as I’d be too hot, but put it on anyway. I am so glad I did!
As we climbed into the boat I got front view seat, which also gets all the force of the wind, great! The boat held about 12 passengers.
Once we all on board, Andrew gave a short safety brief and outline of the trip before setting off nice and slowly out of the harbour. Once we were out of the harbour, Andrew put his foot down which was fantastic, it felt as if we where skimming the water. I was very glad I had put the extra jacket on as when you go fast the wind made it feel a lot colder but the jacket kept me warm and toasty.
At various points we slowed or stopped to allow Andrew tell us information about various spots along the Lough including Castle Ward, Audley’s Castle and the SeaGen turbine explaining what it does and how it provides energy. We then spotted the lovely sight of seals basking in the sunlight on the rocks.
We continued towards the mouth of the Lough at what felt like full speed (Andrew told later it wasn’t even close, shame), it was great to go so fast a real rush of adrenaline.
On the return trip we slowed down and talked about the wildlife and fish in particular. We then went close to the Routen Wheel whirlpool which was amazing, who’d of thought we had such powerful whirlpools in Northern Ireland.
Andrew then asked if we’d like to do some circles and told us to hold on, he did a few circles which were a bit like a rollercoaster, excellent fun and everyone roared with excitement.
As we came back to port I thought about what a great trip it had been and seemed to fly by even thought we’d been out for nearly an hour. Even my previously nervous boyfriend said “this is a must do trip and a great way to see Strangford Lough from another perspective.”
Posted on August 23, 2011 @ 12:21 PM in
The dramatic cliffs of the Giant’s Causeway Coast, stretching along the northern counties of Londonderry and Antrim, blend a unique mix of magnificent scenery with myth, legend and tangible heritage. Sadly however, visitors to this area of outstanding natural beauty rarely venture beyond the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site itself. As such, there is a whole coastline of spectacular walking just waiting to be revealed.
With this sense of discovery in mind I decided to spend a long spring weekend exploring some of the lesser known walking opportunities along Northern Ireland’s famous Causeway Coast.
Each year our club organises a weekend trip to the Mourne Mountains staying in holiday homes in Dundrum, County Down. We also generally do a separate Sunday of hiking in the Silent Valley area however this was the first time I had ever walked along the Causeway Coast.
From chatting with other club members, I had been told of the natural beauty of North Antrim with attractions such as the Giant’s Causeway & Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge all on the check list. However, I was also aware that few people take advantage of the fantastic walking opportunities all along this spectacular coastline and personally I never really considered it as a walking destination before so I was really looking forward to the chance to explore a place that I had always wanted to visit but somehow had never gotten around to.
With the local knowledge and expertise of Walk Talk Ireland guide, Sean Mullan, I set off from Portbraddan and walked along the 10km cliff top path west towards the Giant’s Causeway. This grassy path follows the headlands of Benbane and Bengore with its highest point ‘Hamilton’s Seat’ at 100m offering superb views out as far as the Mull of Kintyre.
The Causeway itself is certainly a must-do for anyone visiting the area however the stunning scenery of dramatic headlands and cliffs around Dunseverick Castle along the cliff top path should simply not be missed. I had read that there were some amazing coastal views along this cliff top path and they certainly weren’t joking.
After resting overnight in the Bayview Hotel in the village of Portballintrae, I boarded a passenger ferry departing Ballycastle to explore another gem along this coastline – Rathlin Island. The ferry journey to Rathlin itself was stunning. The Irish Sea was as still as a pond with seals popping up and down, set with a backdrop out to Scotland and back to the cliffs of Fairhead.
After docking at Church Bay I set off on a 7km walk out to the West Lighthouse past Knockans RSPB Reserve to Kebble National Nature Reserve. Here the breathtaking cliffs and stacks support the largest seabird breeding colony in Northern Ireland. Imelda from the Seabird Centre was very informative and it was a delight to use the telescopes to get a closer look at the incredible variety of seabirds gathering with their mates on the cliffs – this was truly a memorable experience.
I was visiting the Causeway Coast with the view of perhaps organising future club walking trips here and I was completely taken back with what I found. Our club would often go to the west coast or Cork but from my own trip I found the Causeway Coast to be a wonderful option for a future club weekend and I am positive that it would be thoroughly enjoyed by all.
From Celbrdige (22km west of Dublin) it took me 3.5 hours to get up to the Causeway Coast. As one last piece of advice I would urge other walkers visiting this area to bring a pair of binoculars to get a closer look at the wildlife and make sure you have plenty of memory and batteries for your camera – you are going to need it!
This year, WalkNI.com have teamed up with walker-friendly accommodation providers throughout Northern Ireland to offer walkers the chance to avail of 10% off any accommodation bookings made in 2011. Visit WalkNI.com to Download a free Walker’s Guide to the North Coast and Glens of Antrim or contact Aideen Exley on +44(0)28 9030 3930 for more information on planning your next walking trip to Northern Ireland.
Posted on August 11, 2011 @ 11:18 AM in
Chris Sidwells, a freelance journalist came over to Northern Ireland in June of this year to preview the route for the first ever Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive along with Irish Pro Cyclist Philip Deignan for the UK's best selling cycling magazine Cycling Weekly. Here is what he had to say...
The Giant’s Causeway Coast is one of the best places to ride I’ve ever seen, and the organisers of this cyclosportive have picked three excellent routes.
The first Irish pro to win a Grand Tour stage since Stephen Roche explores the route of a new cyclosportive, and explains to me why he prefers riding on Irish roads to anywhere else in the world.
Where to? A leisurely ride for a top pro on his recovery week from the Giro d’Italia and Tour du Suisse.
Philip Deignan didn’t think twice when the Giant’s Causeway Coast sportive organisers invited him to be the ambassador for their new event. “Riding roads like these are one of the reasons why I returned to Donegal. I was living in Girona, but the 24/7 cycling atmosphere there was beginning to get to me a bit.
“I’m as dedicated as anyone, but it’s nice to get a break when you aren’t racing or training, and that isn’t always possible in Girona with 40 or 50 pro cyclists living there. They are great guys and some of them are my friends, but you can’t go out for lunch or a coffee even without talking cycling.
“Now, though, when I’m home I get to be with friends I’ve known for years but who are outside cycling. I can indulge myself with some track days with my car too, which is something I enjoy. Then there are the roads around where I live. I’ve cycled all over the world, but I enjoy doing it most in Donegal. It rains, but you get used to that, and there’s nowhere better when it’s sunny,” he says.
The Innishowen Penisula of Donegal is the northernmost part of the country, even though it’s not in Northern Ireland, so technically it’s south of the border. I’m standing with Deignan on the Giant’s Causeway, looking across the Atlantic at Innishowen, but we’re in Northern Ireland, which Donegal shares a border with, and Deignan shares an accent.
He’s helping me preview a new event on the sportive calendar, and it’s one that CAAN, the Countryside Access and Activities Network, who are responsible for developing outdoor recreation all across Northern Ireland, hope will attract visitors from mainland UK. The Giant’s Causeway Coast sportive takes place on September 17th, when three routes of 57, 126 and 182 kilometres will take participants along the spectacular northern Irish coast, taking in the Giant’s Causeway and many amazing sights. The longer routes will journey into the haunting, misty-green Glens of Antrim as well.
It’s a good week for Deignan to do this. He’s kicking back after an extended period of tough racing that included the Giro d’Italia and the Tour du Suisse in quick succession. The peace and quiet of a quick spin along the coast is a welcome contrast to what he’s been through.
“It’s been going that way for awhile, but this year the Giro was almost too hard. It’s unnecessary for them to make it like that. Zomegnan (the organiser) seems to go out of his way to make the Giro harder. Any Grand Tour is hard, they don’t need to be made harder. The results are the same, you get the same top ten, but for the rest it’s just survival. And it wasn’t just the route this year, the transfers made it tough too.
“The worst thing I saw this year was after the long stage, the one that took over seven hours. I was riding back down the mountain and I noticed there was no grupetto, it was just riders trying to get up the climb as best they could in ones and twos. Some of them couldn’t even pedal, and were being pushed. There was one guy I saw who was crying. He was slumped on his bike with a spectator walking along, pushing him. The guy couldn’t even pedal,” he says shaking his head.
It sounds like a vision from Hell, and a million miles from where Deignan is today. After freewheeling down to the Causeway he climbs back to Bushmills, heading north towards Benbane Head. A local racer called Nigel Quigly from Bann Wheelers is acting as our guide.
The sites come one after the other. The Carrick-a-rede rope bridge lolls across a terrifying canyon in the cliffs. We go west to Whitepark Bay, where cattle sunbathe on the beach, with not a soul to disturb them. This coast is a jewel waiting to be discovered, and it’s best done by bike.
“Not too many hills, eh?” Deignan says when I stop him to take a picture with Rathlin Island in the background. He’s kidding, because he loves them. Deignan is a climber who won a stage and finished ninth overall in the 2009 Tour of Spain. He’s got the potential do even better.
“That’s the problem though, converting potential into results,” he says. He’s working with a Belgian coach now who also coaches 2010 Tour de France fifth-placer, Jurgen Van Den Brouck. “I do better tests than Van Den Brouck, but he doesn’t fatigue in Grand Tours like I do. The solution is to do 30-hour training, weeks, like Van Den Brouck does. That’s how you get the strength to underpin your potential, but when I try to do 30 hours my performance goes down. It’s very frustrating.”
Deignan and Quigly continue to Ballycastle. The sea is studded with islands. Islay lurks in the misty distance, and the Paps of Jura peep shyly behind it. As the two riders crest a rise before descending to Ballycastle they see mainland Scotland. Kintyre lies like a giant beached whale just 11 miles across the North Channel.
Our route, which is the shortest of the three Giant’s Causeway Coast sportives, turns inland at Ballycastle to Armoy, then ambles back to Bushmills, where Deignan recommends all whisky lovers should visit to the famous distillery. “Try the Black Bush,” he points out knowingly.
Threatened rain has kept off. “It’s the only drawback, but it’s not a problem if you always carry a good rain jacket. If I’ve got big blocks of training to do in the winter I go to Tenerife, but in summer the roads of Donegal suit me perfectly. There are plenty of hills, the roads are heavy, but they’re quiet, peaceful and the views are incredible,” he says.
Posted on August 10, 2011 @ 3:55 PM in
OutdoorNI.com does family adventure in Fermanagh is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘OutdoorNI.com does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.
Although the OutdoorNI office is one big happy family we are not yet suitably kidded up to rate family adventure holidays. So we caught up with the an adventurous family from Belfast who had just returned from a Family Adventure Package at Corralea Activity Centre on the shores of Lough MacNean in County Fermanagh.
Joanne and Michael with 12 & 13 year olds Jack and Molly stayed in Corralea Activity Centre’s 3 star self catering cottages and revelled in the abundance of exciting activities on offer.
“The kids were really keen to have an activity holiday this summer. They’ve been to a few activity centres with their school and have been bitten by the bug” explained Joanne.
The package included a half day of activities each day. “We are an active family and do a bit of mountain biking from time to time but this holiday brought us to a whole new level. The patience and welcoming nature of the instructors and the standard of the equipment made things really easy.” enthused Joanne.
The highlight of the week was the waterpark which is the only one of its kind in Ireland. This floating obstacle course including a trampoline and see-saw proved a real hit with the kids. “The kids just loved the challenge of trying to complete the assault course but not as much as they enjoyed soaking us – it was a great laugh.” joked Joanne. One session on the water park wasn’t enough for Jack and Molly, they returned again to do battle with the sea-saw whilst their parents relaxed with the papers and a coffee.
Jack also took on Corralea Activity Centre’s newly installed mountain bike and pump track. “Brian, the instructor was really patient with Jack and really developed his skills and confidence on the bike. Michael and I made great use of the chicken runs” stated Joanne.
Fermanagh locals often coin the phrase about the rainy weather stating that for half the year the lakes are in Fermanagh and for the other half Fermanagh is in the lakes but Joanne and co were certainly a family for all seasons. “For the first half of the week we had Mediterranean conditions and after that it dulled down a bit. Not that it mattered, with the wetsuits on, their was no stopping us.”
Already planning their next weekend break at Corralea Activity Centre, Joanne and family are set for plenty more shared adventures in the near future.
Check out OutdoorNI.com’s Kids & Family Section for more family adventures in Northern Ireland.
Corralea Activity Centre Ltd.
Upper Lough MacNean
+44 (0)28 6638 6123
£742 for family (max. 5) in Corralea Cottage
£1061 for family (max.6) in Pinetree cottage
You save up to £155 (in both cases) on prices of accommodation and activities priced individually.
Normal booking conditions apply. Subject to availability.